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Hand rubbing faux-fur
Feeling soft or otherwise enjoyable textures is a common form of stimming.

Self-stimulatory behavior, also known as stimming[1] and self-stimulation,[2] is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders.[2][3] It is considered a way in which autistic people calm and stimulate themselves.[2] Therapists view this behavior as a protective response to being overly sensitive to stimuli, with which the individual blocks less predictable environmental stimuli.[4] Sensory processing disorder is also given as a reason by some therapists for the condition.[4] Another theory is that stimming is a way to relieve anxiety, and other emotions.[5]

Common stimming behaviors (sometimes called stims[6]) include hand flapping, rocking, head banging, repeating noises or words, snapping fingers, and spinning objects.[7][8] Stimming is almost always a symptom of autism, but it is also regarded as part of some non-autistic individuals' behavioral patterns.[9] The biggest difference between autistic and non-autistic stimming is the type of stim and the quantity of stimming.[9]

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, this type of behavior is listed as one of the symptoms of autism or a "stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms".[10] There are numerous ways to reduce or eliminate stereotypic behaviors.[3] Some of them include providing an individual with alternative forms of stimulation; drugs have been used to reduce stimming (however, it is not clear whether the drugs are actually beneficial or restrict the individual from finding relief).[3]

Stimming can, in some cases, be a self-injurious behavior.[11] Common forms of these behaviors include head-banging, hand-biting, and excessive self-rubbing and scratching.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rosalind Bergemann (2013). An Asperger Leader's Guide to Living and Leading Change. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 9780857008725. 
  2. ^ a b c Valerie Foley (2011). The Autism Experience. ISBN 9781458797285. 
  3. ^ a b c Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D. "Self-Stimulatory Behavior". Autism Research Institute. 
  4. ^ a b Gretchen Mertz Cowell (2004). Help for the Child with Asperger's Syndrome: A Parent's Guide to Negotiating the Social Service Maze. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 9781846420429. 
  5. ^ Eileen Bailey (15 July 2011). "Autism Spectrum Disorders and Anxiety". Health Central. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  6. ^ Temple Grandin, PhD (November–December 2011). "Why Do Kids with Autism Stim?". Autism Digest. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  7. ^ Eileen Bailey (27 August 2012). "Stimming". Health Central. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "Stimming: What autistic people do to feel calmer". BBC. 5 June 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Lisa Jo Rudy (13 October 2009). "Stimming". Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  10. ^ “Autism Spectrum Disorders”, 1994, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, American Psychiatric Association
  11. ^ a b Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D. "Self-Injurious Behavior". Autism Research Institute. Retrieved 29 March 2014.